Charlotte: Basketballers in India may have a long way to go before getting on par with their European and American counterparts but a couple of teenagers have already made a big leap to the NBA platform. Harshwardhan Tomar and Grishma Niranjan are among the 63 boys and girls from 31 countries and regions here for the three-day Basketball Without Borders (BWB) Global Camp that concluded at the Queens University of Charlotte Levine Center for Wellness and Recreation on Sunday.
Understandably, the two are excited about being here at basketball’s most popular show, the All-Star event.
“This is the highest level of basketball I have played so far! Being able to come here, I feel blessed already to represent my country,” Grishma gushes.
“Working with the coaches of the WNBA is just amazing. I also learnt a lot of things like the level of competition, the kind of work I need to put in, the difference in the game in India and other countries,” says the 17-years-old.
She acknowledges the wide gap between India and the west though. “Their fundamentals, attention to details are way ahead, I think that makes a lot of difference. The European and American styles too are more physical -- the way they take charge, make contact, is completely different. They’re aggressive too, and want the ball as bad as anything,” she says.
However, Grishma is not fazed. “The point is we Indians are smart game wise but what’s stopping me is my size. The body type in India is smaller but we can get around it by getting quicker by working on weights and getting stronger,” she says.
Grishma started playing basketball when she was in sixth grade. Now she is in Grade XI at the MES in Bengaluru. “My parents and my coach have been very supportive. My parents allowed me to play, never said ok now stick to studies ’cos that’s usually the most important thing in India,” she explains.
Grishma, who plays for the Rajmahal Basketball Club in the Karnataka Basketball Association’s ‘A’ Division League and has represented Karnataka in the last three National championships, has made her plans. “I will try to come to the United States on a scholarship to do my graduation and try to play in the NCAA (American college basketball championship). Later, I would love to get into the WNBA,” she says.
Her favourites? “I like LeBron James (of LA Lakers) but teamwise I’d go with the Golden State Warriors because they share the ball and are a great side.”
Harshwardhan too was overjoyed. “It was really amazing being part of the All-Star weekend. I had a great experience in enhancing skills and mingling with the best players in the world. I also went to the All-Star game and the slam-dunk contest,” he said.
Basketball was not his first love though. “Like any Indian kid, I played cricket until my mother (a school principal in Gwalior and a former basketball player) introduced me to NBA, four years ago. Earlier, I did not even know that there was an Indian basketball team. Later, I captained the national Under 16 side,” he recalls.
A lot has changed since. “I was 6-foot-1 when I started playing basketball, now I am 6-foot-7.”
After the Charlotte experience, the 18-year-old got to know the level of his game and how much he needs to work on. “I need to improve my skills further to get into the NCAA... I am looking to join a university here and get a scholarship so that I can play on the college circuit,” says the trainee at NBA India Academy in Noida.
Harsh idolises “Brandon Ingram (of his favourite team Los Angeles Lakers),” for “he has great skills – he can shoot from inside, play on the outside and is amazing.”
Having tasted a bit of big action, Harsh has set his sights high. “I dream of playing for the NBA in future and I want India to play at the FIBA World Cup – they’ve never got there.”